The arts have returned to the nondescript building between Gulfport’s two dog parks. Gulfport Arts Center is getting ready to host its first art exhibition under Gulfport Historical Society leadership. The Gulfport-themed exhibition, Show us your Gulfport, opens Oct. 7, and is currently accepting submissions.
This won’t be the first time that the small white building at 2726 54th St. has hosted an art event. But the new Gulfport Arts Center will be different from Frank Hilbrandt’s City of Imagination and Caroline Duvoe’s Abstract Art for Autism.
What Hibrandt once called “a plain white ugly box,” leader of the GAC Steering Committee Marissa Dix calls it a blank canvas “ready to be painted and created by the colorful and creative personality of Gulfport and its residents.”
The City of Imagination aspired to change the way people see art. Abstract Art for Autism hoped to empower neurodivergent individuals with art. The new Gulfport Arts Center, like most community art centers, wants to provide art for all, including kids.
The last time The Gabber wrote about the Gulfport Arts Center, in April 2022, the Gulfport Historical Society was still pulling together a steering committee. Now that they have one, including art professionals and led by Dix, things are moving along.
When Dix first heard about the Gulfport Historical Society’s goal to re-open the Gulfport Arts Center, she immediately thought about kids. An elementary school social worker by day, Dix joined the steering committee to provide input on children’s art shows and classes.
“I feel like kids, even at school, if you ask them what their favorite subject is, they say ‘art!’” Dix told The Gabber, “because they get to be creative.”
Scrolling through Gulfport’s Facebook group feeds, Dix also noticed that parents were looking for opportunities to make art with their kids in Gulfport.
She’s already planning a children’s art show for the holiday season.
Professional artist and steering committee member Kelli LaPuma is excited for the opportunities the center will provide both children and professional artists.
“I think it will open up more opportunities for artists, plus having the ability to share art with younger people to help them learn to express themselves through art,” LaPuma told The Gabber.
GAC presents opportunities for both professional artists and children with their first two art exhibits.
Tempus Projects’ Tracy Midulla juries the first exhibition, Show Us Your Gulfport, an all-ages show that encourages artists to create work expressing what Gulfport means to them. According to Dix, there are about 30 slots in the exhibition and five to six of them are already filled. The artist whom Midulla selects for Best of Show wins a cash prize. How will she choose?
Midulla says she’s looking for the best all-around piece.
“The best crafted, the most thoughtful, a piece that fits the theme,” she told The Gabber. “When you see it, you just know.”
Midulla’s well-know for showcasing edgier works in Tampa. We wondered if it’s even possible to create something edgy to the theme Show us your Gulfport.
“I think it’s possible to be edgy, says Midulla, “but I think that it’s important for a juror to understand the qualifications, and I don’t think edge always has to be the leading attribute, but edge doesn’t hurt. I think the edginess would fall under the thoughtfulness. I really feel like it has to be thoughtful.”
If you’re an artist interested in submitting your work to GAC for Show Us Your Gulfport, you may view the call for entries online via the Gulfport Historical Society website and direct your questions to email@example.com. The Gulfport Merchants Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the exhibit, which will have cash prizes for the top entries.
The holiday show, featuring art from school-age kids, is the next up. Dix says they’re in the beginning stages of planning this one.
“We’re hoping that the opening will coincide with the tree lighting in Clymer Park,” says Dix. “We want to make it non-denominational, so it’s not like a Christmas kids art show, but like a holiday art show that encompasses not just Christmas, but the holiday season in general.”
They already have something specific planned for the younger children, via the City of Gulfport’s school-age holiday camps. Next, they’re hoping to enter into discussions with local high schools to see what kind of work these students would be interesting in doing. Then she plans to contact some high school drama or theater clubs to see if they’d be willing to design some holiday sets for the show.
“We have to keep thinking of what’s next,” says Dix. “I would like to see something for Black History Month – a Black artist’s opening or a Black art opening. Something like that.”
Dix is most excited about GAC providing opportunities for artists of all kinds.
“This is an artists’ town – that’s the identity of Gulfport, by and large,” says Dix. “Just reopening the center and giving everyone access [is exciting] – those who are first starting out, those who are already established, children, all ages.”